Simple Obedience

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

On a September morning in 1853, young Hudson Taylor departed England for Shanghai, China. He was just 21 years old, but possessed a God-given passion for the Chinese people. At that time, there were only a few dozen missionaries bringing the gospel to this great empire largely unknown to the west. During Hudson’s fifty-year ministry, that would all change.

Unlike the established missionary presence which largely kept to coastal areas, Hudson traveled deep into China’s interior. He eventually established the China Inland Mission, which would sponsor over 1,000 new missionaries to China in Hudson’s lifetime. His lifetime of dedicated service continues to be an inspiration to Christians everywhere even today.

And now for the rest of the story… I wish I could tell you that God blessed Hudson with a life free of trouble as he ministered so tirelessly among the Chinese. Not so. Hudson contracted a serious illness, probably hepatitis, and was forced to return to England for an extended time. For the rest of his days, he would struggle with poor health. Hudson also suffered several long bouts of serious depression. His beloved wife died at age 33. Four of their eight children died before the age of ten. In 1900, exhausted and overwhelmed, Hudson suffered a complete physical and mental breakdown. His was no “charmed” life.

The Chinese church is most likely the fastest growing church on earth today. Largely underground due to oppressive government policies, it has been estimated that 234 million Chinese are now believers. Much of the success in reaching the Chinese with the gospel is a result of the seeds sowed by Hudson Taylor in the nineteenth century. I wonder if he could have ever imagined how amazingly God would use his efforts.

We are called to be faithful in doing what God has called us to do. We are not given any guarantees or even insight as to the eventual success of our efforts. Our lives will not be free of problems and obstacles. Yet we are called to persevere, operating in faith that God will use our meager and faulty efforts to build His kingdom.

The prophets faced this same challenge. 1 Peter 1:12 tells us, “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you…”  As the ancient prophets recorded God’s words to them, it was not for themselves or even their contemporaries, but for those of a future generation, which would use their writings to confirm the messiah’s identity and comprehend the plans of God. The prophets simply did as God asked, never seeing the fruit of their labor in their own lifetimes. It was obedience in faith.

What has God called you to do?  It probably does not appear to be a world-impacting ministry. Our efforts rarely do. Like Hudson Taylor, we will face hardship and discouragement as we attempt to obey. Our responsibility is only to do what we are called to do. Simple obedience is all that is required.

God will take our efforts and use them for his kingdom, generously allowing us to participate in his glorious cause.

“Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth… Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.”                                             1 Corinthians 3:7-8 NASB

TWEETABLE
Simple Obedience when #FollowingGod – insight from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: Have you felt discouraged at the effectiveness of your efforts? Please share your experiences!

Fruitless Labor

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

He was a preacher who felt the call of God to share the gospel with college students in Chapel Hill, NC. Every Saturday, month after month, he got into his white Ford van and headed for the same street corner. He set up megaphone speakers to play hymns for those who happened by. Then he stood by his van and handed out tracts to anyone who would take one.

Not once, month after month of Saturdays, did he see fruit from his efforts. But he knew God had called him, so he pressed on.

The prophets faced a similar challenge of a fruitless calling. In fact, some of them never got any positive response from their efforts. Not in their lifetimes, at least. But Peter writes, “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you…” (1 Peter 1:12 NASB). As the prophets recorded God’s Words to a rebellious nation, their message was not only for their immediate time frame. God would use those writings many years later, to enable a future generation to confirm the messiah’s identity and recognize the plans of God.

The prophets simply did what God asked, never seeing the fruit of their labor. They trusted God to use their efforts for His glory.

Sometimes God calls us to that kind of seemingly thankless work. He does not offer guarantees or give us insight as to how He will use our efforts. Yet we are called to persevere, operating in faith that God will somehow use what we do to build His kingdom. Our job is to be faithful, leaving the responsibility for any growth to Him.

That faithful but fruitless street preacher? One day a skinny college senior, who was a hippie, drug dealer, and fraternity bad boy, stopped to talk with him. He had been searching for the meaning in life: why was he here? What was his purpose? After discussing Jesus for two hours, the preacher gave him a Bible and suggested he read it. God worked mightily in that young man as he did, until one evening, the boy dropped to his knees and gave his life to Christ. His name was Lon Solomon.

God eventually led Lon to seminary, eventually giving him the position of senior pastor for a large church in Northern Virginia. God used his ministry and preaching to lead countless others to Christ. Through Lon, the Lord saw fit to grow McLean Bible Church into a congregation of over 20,000 members.

Why do I share this story? Lon Solomon was that preacher’s only convert out of his street ministry. God used all that effort to lead one single soul to Christ. But the fruit from that one soul’s transformation impacted the world.

Paul was faithful to the calling he received on the road to Damascus. It wasn’t easy. During his years of ministry, he was beaten, stoned and left for dead, experienced hunger and thirst, but tirelessly traveled dangerous roads to bring the gospel to the Gentiles. And through it all, he trusted in God to take the seed he sowed and multiply it for His glory.

What has God called you to do?  Will you have an impact on the world? Our efforts rarely do. And just as Paul and the street preacher did, we will face hardships and discouragement as we obey. But our responsibility is simple: do what we are called to do. We can trust God to take our efforts and use them for his kingdom while generously allowing us to participate in his glorious cause.

“Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”  1 Corinthians 3:7 NASB

TWEETABLE
Fruitless Labor – insight on #FollowingGod from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: Have you ever discovered some God did through you after the fact? Please share!